Wildin Guillen Acosta, a Riverside High School student whose arrest by immigration officials has sparked an outcry in the Triangle, will not be deported to his native Honduras while the Board of Immigration Appeals reviews his case.
Evelyn Smallwood, the Durham attorney representing the 19-year-old, learned Monday that an order for deportation would be put on hold while she works to have his case opened again, a process that could take several months.
Acosta’s case has highlighted the difficulties that children have after fleeing countries gripped by violence and entering the United States illegally to a maze of complexities in the immigration courts.
Smallwood contends that Acosta, a senior at Riverside, has a good case for asylum. But because Acosta failed to show up for a hearing scheduled in immigration court a year ago, he has never presented his case on its merits.
On Friday, an immigration court judge rejected a request to reopen Acosta’s case, which prompted a flurry of activity over the weekend by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, and others. Butterfield and a California congresswoman persuaded the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to halt the deportation that had been scheduled for Sunday to give Smallwood time to file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
The board issued a stay on Monday that extends the reprieve further.
Smallwood said her next legal challenge will be to try to get Acosta freed from the detention center in Georgia, where he had been held, while his appeal is underway.